Good evening from the corner of my study in Bakeless,
It has been one of the more eventful weeks I think I have had in a while. A week ago I was headed to Hazleton, where I ended up spending the night with my adopted family. I had the opportunity to share some important information with them and then was asked to spend the night. I had a Dominican breakfast last Saturday morning that was amazing. I spent the next morning shopping and going to a Latino Farmers Market. I got to practice my Spanish pronunciation by merely trying to name all the fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, Batata, Yuca, (of which I think I have both the sweet and the bitter) and some squashes. The rest of the weekend and into the middle of the week was taken up with three things: working on my tenure application, grading students work and managing daily class requirements, and working with my mentees (of which there are three formal ones and a couple more more informal ones). All in all it was a busy week. In fact, all of this seems much longer than a week ago.
I am always amazed when the end of the academic year arrives because regardless of how prepared I am, I never seem ready. This semester I walked into the semester more prepared than ever before. I spent days getting ready for what was coming and about 5 weeks into the semester, I felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails again. I am still not sure how that happens (at least I am not completely aware of how). I actually spoke with colleagues about it this semester and I got some interesting replies . . . and while I know there is truth in what they tell me, I am not sure how I can actually change some of that. Perhaps the most insightful statement one colleague made about it was “I need to quit holding their hands.” I think this might be the most helpful comment. It is actually an important part of who I am, but I need to rethink that. Can I moderate it and not lose who I am? I have actually had to work on that in another way, and the insight that I have been required to consider from their observations has been a struggle. It is something I am working on, but it requires me to take a fundamental part of who I am and make changes. If I am going to be completely honest, I think their evaluation is correct, but figuring out how to change it or make it more appropriate is going to be a process.
As I spend the majority of the weekend in my office putting together supporting materials, grading, and working on other projects, it will need to be tremendously productive, but I know I can do that. I do believe I might have to take a ride on the Harley today. That is a way that I actually de-stress. . . . I have learned yet another thing about WordPress and its limitations. Yesterday, I knew I had this open on my computer at school, but I figured I could finish it at home and post it. Nothing doing. I wrote a complete posting twice and when I saved it I saw the post, but when I went back it was gone. It was not until it happened a second time that it dawned on me what was happening. So . . . this is the third posting of this. It is actually Sunday afternoon and I am back in my office. I will try to recreate some of what I wrote yesterday. However before I get back to some of those issues, I must say I had an enjoyable time, for the most part, last evening at the Fog and Flame. A colleague from the Communication Studies Department has finished his PhD and is leaving and he had a little gathering. I was speaking to another professor in that department and I think they had seven searches again for next year. I know she has been on so many search and screen committees that she is totally burned out. It makes it hard on both the faculty and the students and I know this first hand from both sides.
Music has always been a significant part of my life, from the time I was a little boy. I was in choirs or had some sort of musical gadget or listening device. I was in a city-wide children’s’ choir when I was still in elementary school and I was taking private music lessons from the 2nd grade. Yesterday someone asked me what my favorite group or favorite song was. The favorite group was not that hard for me to decide, and anyone who has been acquainted with me over the decades will not be surprised by this choice. It is Kansas, the band that really hit things in the middle 70s. It is the band whose concerts I have attended more than any other one, and it is certainly one of the bands that I believe I had every album they have done, particularly in their heyday. I also liked them because their music was more complex and interesting both melodically and certainly more difficult technically, but they were also always accessible. My favorite song is actually from their very first album and it is a ballad of sorts. It is melodic, but a bit haunting. It is symphonic is its timbre because of the violin and the piano, which has a sort of classical aspect to it. It is the first verse that I find particularly autobiographical. It actually relates to some of the deistic struggles that I have noted. In fact rather than typing the words, I think I will insert a link so you can listen to it, if you so desire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyn8IeOdxlY). This is the original version off that first album. It is how I most understand the nature of the third article. It is interesting to me that I am so comfortable with a third article though as a Lutheran person, one who has been taught to be second article dominant. Yet, that is not some charismatic idea of the Holy Spirit, but rather a very personal understanding of it. I think Rudolf Otto’s idea of the numinous is probably at work here for me. It is interesting to me that my humanities class from Dana College is back in the fore of the my thoughts yet again. In fact, I have used those notes on two occasions lately to assist my students today.
As I am finishing things up for the semester, I am grateful for three things (this is not particularly an order of importance, but rather the way they have come to mind): first, I am grateful for my colleague and friend, Dr. Mark Decker. I realize how much your presence in my life means to me. It was when you were gone in the fall that I really came to terms with that. In addition, the Tuesdays and weekly times were as important to me as they were to you. While I know your life will be much more structured and your time much more demanded, I hope we can find a weekly time to check in and at least have lunch or something. I am grateful for all you have done for me in so many ways. Second, I am grateful to my department colleagues, and in particular, as of late, the departmental tenure committee. They have been so supportive and gracious in their advice and support. I have been continually amazed by the difference between the department here and the department in my previous institution. There were good people at Stout, and I still believe that, but the atmosphere there is certainly different than here. Dr. Decker and I have spoken about that on numerous occasions. I have both supportive colleagues and amazing scholars here at Bloomsburg. The third thing, and certainly the most profound thing that occurred this semester began with a snowstorm and a snow-day. I had no idea what was in store for me. I am not sure I even know now, but I know that I have been blessed beyond compare. Twice this week I have had an opportunity to share time with Mr. Galan. Each time I speak with him I learn more; I understand more.
As I finish up “another semester ~ another year, as always, I am amazed at how quickly it goes by. This is the second year that I have been here the entire time a student has been. It is always a bit shocking to see how much he or she changes from their time as freshmen until they are walking across the stage to receive their diploma. It is a wonderful thing to behold. It is a gift to be able to have some small influence on that process. That was the other thing that happened this week. I received an award (as an honorable mention) for the Outstanding Innovative Teaching Award here at Bloomsburg. I knew I had been nominated and I did have to fill something out to be considered. Well, I guess it was a good thing because I got a very nice certificate and there is an email and announcement to the president and the provost. Coming as I am turning in my tenure materials is certainly serendipitous. Well, it is time to go back to grading. The picture here is a picture of me when I was a freshman in college, it was scanned (and heisted) earlier this semester. It seemed like an appropriate option as one can see what I looked like when I was writing those notes for my “hum classes” I have been sharing the past couple of weeks.
As always, thank you for reading.